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Healthier Lives

Volume 650: debated on Tuesday 27 November 2018

17. What steps he is taking to ensure that people take greater personal responsibility for leading healthier lives. (907867)

Prevention is indeed better than cure. As well as having a right to expect NHS services to be free at the point of use, we all have responsibility for our own health, and to use the NHS responsibly.

I recently met Breast Cancer Now—the Secretary of State will be aware of it. It has 10 priorities for the NHS long-term plan. Has he made an assessment of the impact of the real-terms 5% cut in public health budgets on reducing the incidence of cancer?

There are many things we need to do to diagnose cancer early, and of course public health is part of that, but there is a much bigger agenda, and that includes more screening. We have seen an increase in the number of people invited to screening, but we need to get the screening right, so I have instituted a review of all our screening processes for cancer and other diseases.

Will my right hon. Friend look at the work done by Connect Well Bromley, a partnership funded by the local clinical commissioning group but delivered by Bromley Third Sector Enterprise and Community Links Bromley? That partnership sets out what is in effect a social prescribing programme of activities and services to deal with wellbeing issues at an early stage. Is that a model for elsewhere in the country?

Yes, it is. I have been briefed on the example that Bromley is setting, which has been brought to my attention by its brilliant local representative, my hon. Friend. Social prescribing systems such as this one are on the rise, because the evidence shows that social prescribing helps to keep people healthy and out of hospital.

A fortnight ago, during his statement to the House on prevention and how the Government intend to keep our nation well, the Secretary of State told me that he would look at my Health Impacts (Public Sector Duty) Bill, which had its Second Reading on Friday. Unfortunately, on Friday, the Government objected to my Bill. Which elements of the Bill did the Secretary of State object to?

I know the hon. Lady has done an awful lot of work on this, and I respect that work. We did look at the Bill, but we thought it was, unfortunately, technically deficient. I know she cares a lot about this, however, as do I, and I want to work with her to see what we can do.

According to Office for National Statistics figures, over the past five years, there have been 150,000 excess winter deaths—a mortality rate twice that in Germany and Norway. What specific work is the Secretary of State doing to reduce the number of deaths this coming winter?

This year, since I became Secretary of State, we have put an extra £420 million in to make sure we are as well prepared as possible. The NHS is of course under pressure, although it is performing exceptionally well, in terms of how much it does for the money going in, and from next year, we will put in the extra £20 billion. I want part of the long-term plan to be about how we can plan for the long term, instead of having this annual cycle of winter pressures.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of joining volunteer leader John Goodwin and others on a health walk around Capstone park in my constituency—one of a number of health walks supported by Medway Council. Will the Secretary of State join me in encouraging more GPs to prescribe walking as a gentle, low-impact form of exercise that is suitable for all ages and abilities?

With enthusiasm, I endorse the call from my hon. Friend, who did so much work on this at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, both before I was in that Department and when I was Secretary of State there. She made the case brilliantly, and she continues to do so. She is absolutely right.

18. Everyone in the House is indebted to public health workers, who help us to lead healthier lives, be they in local authorities or the NHS. Many of them are EU nationals. Does the Secretary of State share my concerns about the term “queue jumpers”? Will he apologise for it, and will he go further and make sure that no public health worker faces additional costs to remain in their home in the UK? (907868)

Every EU worker across our health and social care system—whether in the NHS, or working in public health, in local authorities or in social care—is welcome here, and is supported to be welcome here, and we look forward to the settled status scheme rolling out. We are grateful for their service.

GP appointments are vital for many to lead healthy lives, so will the Secretary of State give his strong personal support to the work of our fantastic GPs, and encourage the NHS to put general practice at the heart of the £20 billion future plan?

Yes. General practice will be at the heart of the long-term plan. GPs are the bedrock of the NHS. We will put an extra £3.5 billion, at least, into primary and community services to help keep people healthy and prevent them from going to hospital.

The Secretary of State got into a muddle last week with his GP figures, so may I suggest that he download an exciting new app to his phone? It is called a calculator. He has said that there will be more for community and primary care by 2024. Can he guarantee that there will be the extra GPs and district nurses to provide the services that he is promising?

Yes, I can; given that we have the money coming into the NHS, we are doing everything possible to ensure that we have the people to do the work. I am delighted to say that we have a record number of GPs in training right now.

But GP numbers have gone down by 700 in the last year, have they not? There are 107,000 vacancies across the NHS, acute trusts are closing accident and emergency departments overnight, the closure of chemotherapy departments is being considered, and Health Education England’s training budget is the lowest that it has been for five years, with more cuts to come next year. Does the Secretary of State agree that if the long-term plan that he will publish next week is to be credible, he must reverse those training cuts and deliver the staff that our NHS needs?

That was a bit of a surprise, because the hon. Gentleman is normally such a reasonable fellow. I thought that he would welcome the record number of GPs in training, and the record number of nurses in the NHS. Because we love the NHS, of course we want to do more, and we will.